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Pride & Prejudice - It’s about growing up, about making mistakes, it’s about love and it’s about things that are as relevant today as then

Feature by: Jack Foley

KEIRA Knightley confesses to having been obsessed with Jane Austen's classic novel, Pride & Prejudice, from an early age - so being offered the role of Elizabeth Bennet was both a terrifying prospect and a dream come true.

"When I first got the part I had women coming over to me saying ‘you’re not Elizabeth Bennet, I am’," she explained, at a recent London press conference for the new film.

"I think that’s why the character is so loved, because everybody who loves the book is Elizabeth Bennet. Or she’s what you aspire to be, she’s funny, she’s witty and intelligent. She’s a fully rounded and very much loved character.

"So it’s terrifying to actually take her on. But equally because I’d been obsessed, I also believed that I was Elizabeth Bennet so I was the right person for it."

Knightley gives one of her best performances as the feisty Ms Bennet, who finds herself irresistibly drawn to the rich and hopelessly arrogant Mr Darcy in Joe Wright's excellent version of the story.

Yet in spite of its classic origins, she believes the story is timeless and that many of its themes remain relevant to contemporary audiences.

With this in mind, therefore, she didn't view the film as just 'another romantic costume drama', or the role as carrying any threat of being typecast.

"I think the reason that Pride & Prejudice, as a story, has been so popular for so long is that fundamentally it doesn’t matter when you set it.

"You can see that for Bridget Jones, or Bride & Prejudice. For me, it’s about growing up, about making mistakes, it’s about love and it’s about things that are as relevant today as then.

"And it’s one of the most beautiful romantic stories ever told. I think it has completely universal appeal, and it doesn’t matter when you set it or when you’re watching or reading it. You can’t not love it.

"As for the notion of being typecast, you’re not going to read a script that has a fantastic story, a fantastic character and a fantastic director and decide not to do it because it was set 200 years ago. That would be a bit foolish.

"You can only go with what interests you and Pride & Prejudice has been a book that I’ve been obsessed with since I was about seven, so the opportunity to play a part like Elizabeth Bennet was one that I couldn’t miss out on."

Related stories: Read our verdict on the film

Keira Knightley - the full interview

Matthew Macfadyen interview

Brenda Blethyn interview

Joe Wright interview

Watch clips from the film

Special feature: The challenge of casting and shooting




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